American college student Amanda Knox was recently convicted of murder in Italy and sentenced to 26 years in prison. Knox allegedly murdered her roommate with the help of two accomplices. Most of what was used to convict Amanda in Italy would’ve never been allowed in an American court. I have no idea if she’s guilty or innocent, but suffice it to say the case is extremely controversial in the US and in Italy.
What I find most interesting and somewhat alarming about this case is the role that social media played in her conviction. While not the centerpiece of the case, Amanda’s social networking profiles were seen by prosecutors as strong evidence of her guilt.
Like many 20-year old college students, Amanda created a playful and somewhat sexy image of herself on Facebook and MySpace. She called herself “Foxy Knoxy” and frequently uploaded pictures of herself partying, acting silly, or posing in unusual ways. Her profiles were nothing out of the ordinary for someone her age and in fact would be considered quite typical. However, once accused of murder her profiles took on a whole new meaning.
Italian prosecutors used Amanda’s social networking profiles and her “Foxy Knoxy” persona to portray her as a slut and someone with loose morals quite capable of committing murder. Maybe they’re right, I don’t know. But it’s important to understand the implications of this. Maybe the person you portray on Facebook is really you, but if not you should think carefully about how you’re being perceived. When taken out of context seemingly innocent pictures or blog posts can become something else entirely.
The Italian media ran wild with the “Foxy Knoxy” meme and her Facebook pictures were on the cover of every newspaper and magazine in Italy and across Europe. It was later discovered that Amanda had written a short story several years earlier on MySpace about a man who drugs and rapes a girl. Once again, a short story like that doesn’t mean much until you’re accused of rape and murder.
Everything we write, say, post, or upload to the Internet will absolutely be there forever and could be used against us at anytime — even in a foreign country.